Michel Nandan Ready to rally-- Once Peugeot Sport took the decision to launch its latest challenger in the world arena from the very start of the season, Technical Director Michelin Nandan and the team successfully complied with the ...
Ready to rally--
Once Peugeot Sport took the decision to launch its latest challenger in the world arena from the very start of the season, Technical Director Michelin Nandan and the team successfully complied with the necessary timeframe and the new 307 WRC is poised to make its debut on the Monte Carlo Rally, with its sights already set high.
The 307 WRC and its illustrious predecessor, the 206 WRC, are very different machines. What exactly have you been able to carry over from one to the other?
"Mainly all the technological expertise we have accumulated thanks to five years of experience in the World Rally Championship. Apart from that, the philosophy behind the two cars is effectively quite different and that has led us to take a completely fresh approach to the design of the majority of the 307 WRC's components. That doesn't mean however that we started out from a clean sheet. For one, the new car was the chance for us to pursue certain ideas further than we have been able to until now. At the same time, we were to look at certain solutions that it wasn't possible to use on the 206 because of its small size. Globally, inasmuch as accessibility to the mechanicals has been improved, the 307 will be simpler and more functional. For example, instead of the fairly corner gear we were forced to run with on the 206 WRC gearbox, we were able to switch to a transverse solution. Not only did that facilitate design and production, it is also easier to maintain and use."
There is talk of a four-speed gearbox. What is the advantage of that?
"It is true that we have homologated two gearboxes, a four-speed box and a five-speed unit. But it is also possible to run a five-speed gearbox and only use four ratios. Even with the lower response time of today's semi-automatic, sequential boxes, every gearshift results in a fall in engine speed, which in turn results in a loss of time. If you are in a position where you can match the gearing to the characteristics of the engine with just five or, in certain situations, four speeds, then why use more? Not only that, you also achieve a weight saving or, alternatively, you can run stronger parts for an identical weight."
The development of the 307 WRC in less than a year while continuing to compete at world level with the 206 WRC was no mean affair. What was your approach to this situation?
"We revised our work methods with a view to upsetting our existing programme as little as possible while also being effective for the future. Despite what some think, Peugeot Sport's budget is not an open chequebook and staffing levels were not increased. We gave it our best and came very close to securing a fourth title against increasingly stronger opposition. And as far as the 307 WRC is concerned, I believe we have done what was required for it to be up and running both within the timeframe and, hopefully, up there fighting at the sharp end."
What is your objective for the first round of 2004?
"However happy we may be with the way testing went over the winter, we are conscious that the 307 WRC is only at the beginning of its career and nothing can replace actual competition. That doesn't mean we will be in Monte Carlo just to make up the numbers though; Peugeot has its sights set on the world title at the end of the year and our drivers will be out to give it everything they've got. We'll see how it goes--"
In the starting blocks--
Peugeot Sport newcomer 'Fast Freddy' will kick off the 307 WRC's competition career in Monte Carlo--
The 307 WRC is about to make its WRC debut. What are your first impressions of the car?
"Its steeply raked windscreen reminds me of the Toyota Celica I drove at the time of my World Championship debut, and I have fond recollections of that. Its proportions don't pose a problem for me and its progressive handling suits me down to the ground. I have very little experience with the 206 WRC, unlike the 307 WRC which I drove for something like 1,000 kilometres during testing this winter. In my opinion, the basic package of the new car is easier to drive and more naturally balanced."
What sort of result do you believe you can obtain on what will be your seventh Monte Carlo start?
"The Monte will be the 307 WRC's competition debut, so it will be important to go the whole distance. Testing has already shown that the car has real potential, but nothing can replace actually competing and the Monte Carlo will be a very good test of reliability."